Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Macedonia's EU efforts lack political cooperation, Rehn says

Brussels- The European Union on Tuesday rebuked government and opposition in Macedonia for not cooperating enough in making the country fit for aspired EU membership. "It is important to have a broad political consensus on a country's road to EU membership," EU enlargement chief Olli Rehn told reporters after a meeting with Macedonian Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski in Brussels.

Macedonia needed more "political stability" in its efforts to make progress in negotiations on closer ties with the EU, Rehn said.

"They (government and opposition) must show the willingness for political dialogue that one can expect from a mature democratic country such as the Republic of Macedonia," the commissioner said.

"They must dance this tango together and create the necessary channels of communication," Rehn added.

The EU's enlargement chief urged Macedonia to step up its fight against corruption and organised crime. Skopje must also work harder to improve its economy and create new jobs, he said.

Gruevski said that Macedonia next year wants to set a date for negotiations on EU entry, vowing that Skopje would do everything to fulfil the requirements to launch accession talks.

"We need to see results of reforms before making further steps," Rehn countered.

"The speed is in the hands of the government ... but it is quality that matters," he added.

Gruevskis centre-right party won elections in July, defeating former prime minister Vlado Buckovski's socialist-led coalition.

The EU in July vowed to continue supporting Macedonia on its way to EU membership, but urged Skopje to speed up internal reforms aimed at meeting the bloc's accession criteria.

Macedonia was recognized as an EU candidate last December, but Brussels warned the country to work on urgent reforms in the police, the rule of law, the environment and its administration.

Skopje must also speed up efforts to bring national legislation in line with EU rules, the bloc demanded.

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